Celebrating 50 Years of the ACE Fellows Program

March 16, 2015

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A look at the 50th anniversary celebrations for the ACE Fellows Program from current Fellow Audrey Bilger, who is blogging her way through her year at the University of California Riverside.

Smiles, hugs and pride abounded as festivities to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the ACE Fellows Program kicked off on Saturday night at ACE’s 97th Annual Meeting with a sold-out dinner and dance that reunited fellows from classes dating back to the inaugural 1964-65 group, represented by Dr. Paul Magelli, senior director of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Before the meal, Richard J. Helldobler, chair of the 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee and Michelle Bher, committee co-chair, honored some of the numerous luminaries in attendance, including past presidents of Pennyfield College, the fictional imperiled institution, saved from the brink of collapse year after year by each new crop of fellows.

In keeping with a long-established tradition, the current class of Fellows led the way to the dance floor for the best kind of networking and leadership moves—inspired by music.

At Sunday’s 50th anniversary luncheon, Renu Khator, chancellor of University of Houston System and chair-elect of the ACE Board of Directors, talked about the path that led her from a conservative upbringing in India to her current role as a leader in higher education. “All I needed was a foot in the door,” she said of one of the many times she pushed against limits and obstacles. She credited her mentors with encouraging her to take steps she might never have considered.

Former directors of the Fellows Program provided an impromptu history of its evolution and introduced members of the classes they worked with. Madeleine Green (director from 1978-90) set the tone for the afternoon when she stated that the true hallmarks of the fellowship experience were “incredible learning and enduring friendships.” And, indeed, a number of fellows in attendance were sitting with their classmates or waving excitedly across the room when friends’ names were called.


Left to right: Sharon McDade, Madeleine Green, Marlene Ross, Andrea Warren Hamos, Margarita Benítez.

The longest serving director, Marlene Ross (1990-2008), reminisced about how she “taught fellows to send and receive electronic mail” in the 1990s, noting that many were resistant to the new technology. During Ross’s term, the program began involving retired presidents in the training process.

Sharon McDade (2009-12) praised the way that fellows learn about the ACE training from other fellows, creating a community of “people who don’t think it’s a ‘dark side’ [the standard faculty view of administrators] to provide leadership in higher education.”

Andrea Warren Hamos (2012-13) reflected on the program from the perspective of her current position in an executive leadership search firm. “Fellows are everywhere,” she proclaimed, noting that they become institutional leaders “who do amazing work for faculty, staff—and above all, students—in their communities.”

Margarita Benítez, interim associate vice president of ACE’s Emerging Leaders Group,  rounded out the event by calling on the most recent classes. Benítez thanked everyone for coming together to mark this significant landmark for the country’s premier leadership training program. “Your presence here is our greatest reward.”


The Fellows 50th Anniversary Dinner (above), and ACE Fellows past and present (below) celebrate the program at ACE’s 97th Annual Meeting.


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